Truths: Breadth & Depth

Photo by Tim Graves
The Oregon coast near Cannon Beach. Photo by Tim Graves

I lived in six different houses growing up. As an adult I’ve lived in eight cities and towns. This does not count the multiple moves within cities. In each of these places I’ve known people who’ve spent their entire lives in one place.

At times I’ve envied those who have deep roots in a place. Sometimes after a decade in a place, there have been times in which I’ve felt like a stranger and an outsider. But I wouldn’t give up the perspective that living multiple places has given me. However, this is not a piece about feelings; it is about truths from different vantage points.

I will never know a place the way one of the “locals” do. Likewise, they will never know a place the way I do. Both perspectives are true and reflective of reality. Neither is the only or whole truth. Consider the oceanfront. It doesn’t matter whether you’re imagining the Gulf coast with its white sands or the rocky Oregon coast. The metaphor will work both places.

If I spend only a few hours at the beach, I will experience high-tide or low-tide but not both. I will experience a sunny day or a rainy day or possibly I will experience the transition from one to the other. Whatever I experience in a few hours, however, will only be a snapshot in time.

Cannon Beach, Oregon (Photo by Tim Graves)
Cannon Beach, Oregon (Photo by Tim Graves)

Coming from another ecosystem, I am likely to be fascinated by the whole experience. My senses will be at attention. The sound of the waves and the feel of sand beneath my feet will be near the top of my awareness. I may be fascinated by a common occurrence and miss a unique event.

If I live a lifetime on the beach, my depth of understanding the place will be different. I will encounter not only both high- and low-tide but winter and summer. My experience will be more like a feature-length film than a snapshot. I will notice the differences when the moon’s pull on the earth’s oceans is stronger and weaker. Being on the beach all the time, some aspects will be so common to me that I don’t notice them.

Is one perspective more true than the other? I don’t think so. Both have value. The broader view of the short-term beach dweller brings new information to the beach from other climates and places. Sometimes, that broader view provides an understanding of the beach impossible without having been other places. Nonetheless, it will never provide the same depth of understanding of the beach — this particular beach — that those who live a lifetime upon its sand.

Sometimes we assume that our own perspective is the only or superior perspective. When we do that, we deny other truths and assure that we will miss seeing the whole. There is truth in depth and breadth of knowledge.

No one person’s view is the whole truth. No one faith, no one political party, no one nation has the whole truth. All humans (and creation) are interconnected and interrelated. We need one another. We need the truth that we can only find in loving, living, and listening to one another. We need the truth found in the depth of knowing one place well and we need the truth found in the breadth of knowing multiple places.

We need one another. We are each only a piece of creation. When we learn to listen, live, and love together we will finally be on our way to being the people we were created to be.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace;
but wisdom is with the humble. Proverbs 11:2 NRSV

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